Öcalan v Turkey (App no 46221/99) ECHR 12 May 2005

The case concerns an application brought by a Turkish national, Abdullah Öcalan, who was born in 1949. He is the former leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), proscribed as a terrorist organisation under Turkish law, and is currently incarcerated in İmralı Prison (Bursa, Turkey). At the time of the events in question, the Turkish courts had issued seven warrants for Mr Öcalan’s arrest and a wanted notice (red notice) had been circulated by Interpol. He was accused of founding an armed gang in order to destroy the integrity of the Turkish State and of instigating terrorist acts resulting in loss of life.

On 9 October 1998 he was expelled from Syria, where he had been living for many years. From there he went to Greece, Russia, Italy and then again Russia and Greece before going to Kenya, where, on the evening of 15 February 1999, in disputed circumstances, he was taken on board an aircraft at Nairobi airport and arrested by Turkish officials. He was then flown to Turkey, being kept blindfolded for most of the flight.

On 29 June 1999 Ankara State Security Court found the applicant guilty of carrying out actions calculated to bring about the separation of a part of Turkish territory and of forming and leading an armed gang to achieve that end. It sentenced him to death, under Article 125 of the Criminal Code. That decision was upheld by the Court of Cassation.

Under Law no. 4771, published on 9 August 2002, the Turkish Assembly resolved to abolish the death penalty in peacetime. On 3 October 2002 Ankara State Security Court commuted the applicant’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

An application to set aside the provision abolishing the death penalty in peacetime for persons convicted of terrorist offences was dismissed by the Constitutional Court on 27 December 2002.

The applicant complains that the imposition and/or implementation of the death penalty was or would be in violation of Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of ill-treatment) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention; and that the conditions in which he was transferred from Kenya to Turkey and detained on the island of İmralı amounted to inhuman treatment in breach of Article 3. He also complains that he was not brought promptly before a judge and did not have access to proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of his detention, in breach of Article 5 §§ 1, 3 and 4 (right to liberty and security). Under Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) he complains that he was denied a fair trial, in that he was not tried by an independent and impartial tribunal, as one of the judges of the State Security Court was a military judge, the judges were influenced by hostile media reports and his lawyers were not given sufficient access to the court file to enable them to prepare his defence properly. He also complains, under Article 34 (right of individual application), that his legal representatives in Amsterdam were prevented from contacting him after his arrest and/or that the Turkish Government failed to reply to a request by the European Court of Human Rights for information.

 The applicant further relies on Articles 7 (no punishment without law), 8 (right to respect for family life), 9 (freedom of religion), 10 (freedom of expression), 13 (right to an effective remedy), 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the Convention. 

(from the official press-release prepared by the Registry Office of the  European Court of Human Rights)